Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Release

Once everyone is done viewing today's solar eclipse, there's another important phenomenon happening:


As of today, my book is available at the MX Publishing website!  If you would prefer to buy from a local independent bookstore, MX Publishing has also made it available to independents before its wide release through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I've gone into more detail of the book in a previous post, so I won't rehash that here.  But take a minute to check out the MX site and if the book sounds interesting to you, give it a shot.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I Tried to Puzzle it Out

August 2nd.  That's when the black hole was formed.

Not a Stephen Hawking/Neil DeGrasse Tyson type of black hole.  No, we are dealing with a productivity black hole.  That's the day that I learned of Think Geek's new Sherlock Holmes puzzle.  I showed it to my wife, she innocently said I should get it and I ordered it.  The die was cast.  A week later, it arrived in the mail and I haven't been productive since then.

School starts in a week, I'm trying to be a productive member of my team participating in the John H. Watson Society Treasure Hunt, I'm in the middle of a good book, and I'd like to keep up with the rest of the world.  But the puzzle calls to me.

Doing puzzles has always been something my daughter and I have done together, but the biggest one we've ever attempted was 100 pieces and was Disney princesses.  So when she asked if she could help me with the 1,000 piece Sherlock Holmes puzzle, I gladly accepted her offer.  (I think she put about 4 pieces in total, but she sure did try)

My wife noticed that she was all alone in the living room.  And she was sucked in as well.  Over the course of four days, if we were home, there was some combination of the three of us hunched over the dining room table working on it.

And this thing is big!  I had hoped to use a board game as a kind of mat and move it off the table so we could eat.  It's too big.  I brought up a big wooden platform from the basement to use.  It was still too big.  So I used both.  That worked for a day and half until I finally gave up and claimed the dining room table as my own.

We didn't eat dinner in our dining room for three days because of this puzzle.

Here is where you would think I'd start complaining about how much space it took up, how it upset our family routines, or kept me from other things I should have been doing, but no.  I loved every piece of this puzzle.  It was a fun challenge as a Sherlockian, was the first Sherlockian thing my wife ever did with me (she still hasn't read my book! ahem...), and prompted some fun conversations with my daughter, at one point she decided she would "help" put the puzzle together by looking at the pieces with a magnifying glass.

You don't have to have a strong knowledge of the canon to do this puzzle, but it sure makes it more interesting.  Quotes from the stories, biographies of Doyle and his characters, pictures, and a list of every case along with its guilty party make up the collage.  When my daughter asked, "Who is Frances?" I immediately knew it should go between "Lady" and "Carfax."  I saved the list of cases to do by myself at the end because I wanted to do it without looking at the cover on the box and use my knowledge to put it together.  I realized I know the order of The Adventures really well, and things get hazy after that.

But the absolute best part of this puzzle was once it was done.  Not getting my dining room table or leisure time back, but my daughter wanted me to read the puzzle to her.  She now knows that Sherlock's best friend was Dr. Watson, and Dr. Watson got married to a client.  She also knows what the word "client" means.  She knows that Holmes used science and has a brother named Mycroft.  And she wanted me to read the list of cases to her, stopping me to hear about ones that sounded interesting or ones she's already familiar with.

What started out as a mere intellectual puzzle, grew into something to while away the time, and ended up as what will remain a great memory of the occasion.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sherlockian Imprinting

We've all heard the stories of animal imprinting where a baby duck or some other animal mistakes a different species for its mother and then follows it around, learning from the surrogate.  And it's so CUTE!

And does this have anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, or am I just shamelessly putting up cute animal pictures to attract readers to my blog?  Honestly?  Both.

I've yet to meet another Sherlockian that doesn't have adaptations outside of the canon that they love.  I have a theory that imprinting plays a big part in our Sherlockian identities.  Quick, what is your favorite adaption?  My theory is that that adaptation is one of the first adaptations of the canon you ever saw.  Two personal examples:

My love for The Great Mouse Detective runs deep.  I enjoyed that movie before I even knew who Sherlock Holmes was and continued to love it even after I became a Sherlockian.  Going back and rewatching Basil vs. Ratigan once I was able to pick up on the canonical nods just strengthened my positive feelings towards the film.  There were other Disney movies from that time period that I also enjoyed, but having something from my childhood tie into my adult interests undoubtedly reinforced the feelings I have towards the movie.

For you psychology majors out there, I know that's more reinforcement than psychology, but cut me some slack.

I got into Sherlock Holmes around 2003 or 2004.  I plowed through the canon, the apocrypha and then dove into pastiches.  For whatever reason, I didn't ever seek out movie or TV adaptations until I saw that the guy from Iron Man was playing Sherlock Holmes.  "Sure," I thought, "I'll check it out."  This was the first film adaptation that I saw once I became a Sherlockian.

Many Sherlockians don't like Downey's portrayal of Holmes.  I can see where they're coming from.  The original film is a completely new story, Holmes and Irene Adler are nothing like they are in the canon, and the movie is more action over deduction.  But you know what?  I love that movie.  It's so much fun!  If anyone were to ask me what the best adaptation is, I'd quickly answer Jeremy Brett's Granada series.  So good!  But my favorite?  The Great Mouse Detective and Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes.

So why does Downey's film strike such a chord with me?  My unlicensed self-analysis is because of imprinting.  It was one of the first adaptations I saw.  I don't think imprinting is a catch-all.  If I had seen Matt Frewer's version first, it's a pretty safe guess that he wouldn't have been my favorite.

But the versions that are worth watching (Brett, Downey, Cumberbatch, Miller, Lee, Plummer, Rathbone, Cushing, etc.), if you saw one of those first, my hypothesis is that it rates very high, if not at the top, on your list of adaptations.  Maybe I'm wrong, but even the Great Detective made his hypotheses without much knowledge sometimes.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July Book Giveaway & Appreciating Adaptations

Hoo boy, Elinor Gray sure can stir up a conversation!  Maybe that's why she's the new editor-in-chief of the John H. Watson Society Journal.  But that's not this week's topic.  No, Ms. Gray tweeted a simple quote she heard at a local Sherlockian meeting.

And that led to a Twitter conversation between Elinor, myself and Chris Redmond.  (For some reason, Chris is always present when I get into a rambling Sherlockian conversation on Twitter.)  Before I get onto my main point, a few thoughts:

1.  "youths"?  Really?  Probably not going to reach your target demographic talking like that.
2.  Can we please be done with the purposefully mispronunciation of "Cumberbatch"?  It's about as funny as plays on Keep Calm and Carry On or minions memes.
3.  I've discussed my personal methods for introducing young people to Sherlock Holmes in other blogs, and in two upcoming book anthologies, so I won't beleaguer the point here.  But I think it can be done with some specific thought.
4.  And why the specific focus on young people?  Shouldn't we as Sherlockians be welcoming anyone who wants to discuss Holmes?

Elinor, Chris and I discussed the dismissive attitude some Sherlockians have towards fans of certain adaptations.  That's not cool.  On one hand, you're saying you want new people to join you in your interest, and immediately make them feel less-than by blowing off their form of interest in the topic.  

Jeremy Brett is my favorite Holmes adaptation.  But man, do I enjoy those Robert Downey Jr. films.  The first two seasons of BBC Sherlock are some of the best TV I've ever seen.  Who is the "right" Sherlock Holmes?  Depends on who you ask.  But for my money, it's this guy:

For me, it all starts with the canon.  I know there are plenty of BBC Sherlock and Elementary fans who've never read the canon, and that's cool.  But if you're at a Sherlockian discussion, you might want to have a familiarity with Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.  Chris made the astute observation, "Don't go to the philatelic society and insist on talking about beer bottle caps."  After I looked up what philatelic meant, I agree.

But most of us don't stop after those 60 stories.  There is a world of TV shows, movies, fan fiction and pastiche out there for us.  (Including some of the books I'm giving away this week!  See what I did there?)  Don't dismiss others because of what they enjoy.  For me, Elementary strays too far from the canon to interest me.  And you know what, so do the Basil Rathbone films.  Right now, there are established Sherlockians gasping at that.  But, come on, Sherlock Holmes fighting Nazis isn't very canonical.  But is my opinion of Basil Rathbone or Johnny Lee Miller's versions of Sherlock Holmes more important than other peoples'?  


So why are people so quick to dismiss other Sherlockians because of their preferences?  Some people like Jeremy Brett.  Some people like Johnlock.  As long as they are interested in the canon, we still have a similar starting point.  I'm pretty sure lots of older Sherlockians dismissed the Jeremy Brett fans when the PBS series came out in the 80's, and here we are with an older generation of Sherlockians dismissing Cumberbatch fans 30 years later.  It almost makes our group look like the Scotland Yard detectives that so often dismissed Holmes' new methods only to be proven wrong time and time again by his innovative ways of looking at things.

*     *     *     *     *

And now, on to this month's book giveaways!

Up for giveaway this month are books that cover different aspects of the Sherlockian world.  Hopefully we can all appreciate the different avenues.  

For the traditional route, there is a copy of the "Greenwich Unabridged Library Classics Sherlock Holmes" which contains the Adventures, Memoirs and Return of Sherlock Holmes as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles.
For the pastiche fan, I have a copy of "Sherlock Holmes and the Sacred Sword" by Frank Thomas.
And for those of you who are looking for mysteries in Victorian London that venture a little past Sherlock Holmes' involvement, there is a copy of "Brigade: Further Adventures of Inspector Lestrade" by M.J. Trow.

The rules are simple: if you are interested in one of this month's giveaways, be the first to claim it in the comments below and give me your email address in the comment.  I will contact you to set up shipping.  I only ask that you pay the few dollars for shipping the book to you, and it's all yours.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another Branch in the Holmes Family Tree

Very little is known of Sherlock Holmes’ family from Conan Doyle’s original 60 stories.  His parents are never mentioned, although we learn in “The Greek Interpreter” that Holmes has ancestors that were country squires and that his grandmother was sister to the French artist Vernet.  We also learn in “The Greek Interpreter” that he has an brother seven years his senior, Mycroft, who balances the books in some government office.  More details come out about Mycroft in “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” which have allowed adaptation writers to build him into a character that the non-Sherlockian would think appears much more frequently than he actually does in the Canon.  And that is about it when it comes to the Holmes family tree that Doyle gave us.

Although Doyle never discussed Holmes’ parents that has not stopped others from speculating, most notably William Baring-Gould and Nicholas Meyer, with Stephen Moffatt and Mark Gatiss reprising the parental characters in their adaptation.  In “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,” another member of the Holmes family tree is mentioned, but this man has often gone ignored by fans of the great detective.

At the beginning of the Norwood Builder, Watson tells us:
“…I at his request had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street.  A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little demure the highest price that I ventured to ask – an incident which only explained itself some years later, when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes, and that it was my friend who had really found the money.”

And that is the last we hear of cousin Verner.  Sherlockians have focused so much on Sherlock’s brother and parents and created enough children and grandchildren of Holmes to fill a phone book, but here we have Doyle created relative that is tossed by the wayside.  One could imagine a world of pastiches where Holmes recruits cousin Verner to help out in a situation similar to “The Blanched Soldier” or an apocryphal story where Verner treats Baron Gruner’s face after Kitty Winter’s attack.  Or what about a story where Verner attends classes taught by Joseph Bell or he attempts to treat Victor Savage, only to have him die of unknown causes. 

In a world where it is common place to build up minor canonical characters to mythological levels, (Mycroft, Irene Adler, Professor Moriarty) I offer that cousin Verner should become a new focus of those looking for an untapped vein for Sherlockian pastiches.  If Sherlock Holmes can fight space aliens with Professor Challenger and unmask Jack the Ripper, why not explore the adventures of a little known doctor who is bankrolled by his remarkable cousin?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Missing Sherlockians

Quick housekeeping item: Please subscribe to get notified weekly when my new posts are up.  You can subscribe to the right of this post.  Now, on to the main event!

My home scion, The Parallel Case of St. Louis had their latest meeting last weekend, but I had to miss it due to family obligations.  About a year ago, I took over as the head of the discussion group and hadn't missed a meeting yet.  I felt slightly off-kilter all day knowing that there was a Parallel Case meeting going on and I wasn't part of it.  It kinda felt like I was wearing mismatched shoes all day.

I had sent out the email reminder and updated the Facebook page, had typed up a list of news items to discuss, and had an announcement of my new book, but wasn't going to the meeting.  It was an odd feeling knowing that there was a meeting coming up, but I didn't have to read the story or take notes for discussion.  I thought about reading the story anyway, but it was "The Engineer's Thumb," so meh.

And then it struck me, I wasn't missing the story.  I was missing the Sherlockians.  The past few years of my life have been filled with discussions with such great people, both online and in real life about a common interest.  My Twitter feed is a daily stream of Sherlockian topics, I'm usually in the middle of some kind of email conversation about Sherlockian books or an upcoming event, and on really good days, I get to go to a meeting of one of the three scion societies in the St. Louis area.

St. Louis is currently in the midst of a surge of Sherlockian activity.  We have three open scion societies, one meets monthly, one bi-monthly, and one annually.  The St. Louis Public Library is curating a Sherlockian collection as we speak.  In February, the St. Louis Science Center dedicated one of their First Friday events to the science of Sherlock Holmes.  Next month, The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis is hosting a Silver Blaze race at a local racetrack.  And The Parallel Case of St. Louis is hosting a movie night at the end of this month.

So why did missing one meeting throw me off?  Because Sherlockians are good people.  And knowing that there was a Sherlockian discussion going on made me feel like I was missing out.  There are plenty of times when we get onto a topic that I don't have anything to contribute.  I love that.  In the Sherlockian world, we have people of all stripes and backgrounds who bring different background knowledge and opinions to the table and we are all better off for it.  The Parallel Case has two old school BSI members, and one co-host of the Three Patch Podcast.  You want to talk about different points of view?  We also have a retired professor, a member of the National Guard, a lawyer, an elementary school teacher, and many more.

And when everyone feels comfortable enough in a diverse group to discuss a common topic, there are some great discussions.  The online Sherlockian world has that, too to some extent.  The tweetalongs to go with Granada episodes, or less than well regarded movies (ahem, Rupert Everett) bring a levity to the community.  A quick search for Sherlockian groups on Facebook will bring a TON of choices.  Some are more standard, while some are all-encompassing.  Find what groups fit you, online or off.  And more importantly, find some that are just a bit out of your comfort zone.  One of my first posts for I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere told about pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to go to a scion meeting.  I was a nervous wreck, and now here I am, out of sorts because I missed a scion meeting.  Quite a changing age.

Side note: My original topic for this week's post was to take the lyrics to "Hound Dog" and rewrite them as "Hound Dog of the Baskervilles."  But the original lyrics were, um, not very intricate.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street

It's finally here!  The cover for my upcoming novel, "The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street" is on the internet!

Not only that, the book can be pre-ordered here!

Sorry, I'm a little excited.

MX Publishing (a wonderful organization that I highly recommend to anyone thinking about publishing Sherlockiana) describes the book this way:

What if Sherlock Holmes had turned to crime instead of detection?  THE CRIMINAL MASTERMIND OF BAKER STREET by Rob Nunn investigates this very concept.  Holmes famously said that “when a clever man turns his brains to crime it is the worst of all.”  A sinister influence is at work in Victorian London with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson running a hidden criminal empire.  THE CRIMINAL MASTERMIND OF BAKER STREET explores all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories through the lens of Holmes as a criminal while adding many new exciting tales of Holmes’ daring to delight its readers.

This book started out as an article I wanted to write for the Baker Street Journal, wondering what Sherlock Holmes would look like as a criminal.  But the more I researched, the bigger the idea became, and I suddenly had a book idea on my hand instead of a journal article.  (A big Sherlockian goal in my life is still to be published in the BSJ someday)

After weeks of research, copious notes, and endless theorizing, I had a general outline of how the book would go.  Start at St. Bart's with the fateful meeting of Holmes and Watson.  From there, I took the duo through William Baring-Gould's chronology of the canon, theorizing that the outside world of Victorian London would operate the same way that they did in Doyle's stories, and my role was to change Holmes' and Watson's motives and actions.  Some of the cases stayed the same, some were of no interest to Holmes, and many were altered wildly due to Holmes' ambition to operate a gentlemanly and well-hidden criminal empire.

What really excites me about this book is all of the new stories included.  You get to see Holmes boxing McMurdo instead of just an off-hand mention and Baron Maupertuis plays a role that affects Holmes' future.  I have tried to include every untold case that Watson mentioned in the canon in this book.  If not in an outright story of it's own, acknowledgement of its existence.  All of Holmes' monographs make an appearance and depending on the theory you subscribe to, some or all of Watson's wives as well.

At the core, I wanted to create a story that worked on two levels.  The non-Sherlockian should be able to pick this book up and enjoy the story of a gentleman criminal with a superior intellect in Victorian London.  And my hope is that the seasoned Sherlockian should be able to notice the many nods and details on every page.

A few Sherlockians that I have talked with over the course of writing the book think that the heresy of turning Sherlock Holmes into a criminal will be decried by the traditionalists.  Maybe it will.  But in the end, I've tried to create a book that holds true to all of the other character traits of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.  Because at the heart of every good Holmes story is the two men that are a fixed point in a changing age.